This continues the discussion started in the last post; it might help you to read it first. The main gist of that last entry is this: in the first chapter of the book of Joshua, we see the book’s main character facing an impossible situation, and based on the lessons he learns, we, too, can learn how to have strength and courage when we’re facing the impossible.
One lesson is to remember God’s promise.
As God is exhorting Joshua to be strong and courageous, following the incredible promise that God will not leave or fail this new human leader of his people he pointedly tells Joshua of the need to follow God’s instructions:
Joshua 1:7-9 (TNIV)
Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
It’s a pretty loaded passage of Scripture—but, again, there is a lesson for us as we face impossibility in the lesson Joshua received when facing his. Joshua is promised success—but that promise is contingent on his careful obedience to the Law. It seems many of God’s promises are contingent on his instructions; in fact, the promises we listed previously are all connected with a call, instruction, or correction. God’s promises are coupled with his commands to fulfill mission, to pursue him above all else, to obey him before everyone else.
Many of us get frustrated when God’s promises don’t seem fulfilled in our lives. The first step is asking 1) if the promise is conditional, and 2) if we’re meeting that condition. Then, we need to remember that ‘God is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness…’—that in his way and in his time, he will do what he has said he will do. In no way does this deny God’s active grace in our lives, but reminds us that he has chosen to be gracious to individuals responsible for their own decisions. But all of that is probably a series of entries for some other time.
Back to Joshua: strength and courage for his impossible situation has something to do with recognizing and following God’s instructions. In fact, he is told to become so intimately familiar with the Law that day and night he thinks of it, that he speaks it, because he must be careful to do everything written within the Law.
Why do you suppose this is?
My conjecture is because God knows in impossible situations there will be moments when even great leaders like Joshua—and people like you and me—will be tempted to address an issue in some way outside of God’s design. God knows there will be times in the midst of the impossible when Joshua/we will be tempted to proceed in a manner which temporarily appears to benefit us but is more our invention than Gods and brings him little glory. Times would come for Joshua, and they come for the rest of us, when we are tempted to operate outside of God’s specific instructions; when what is easy will trump doing what is right; when moving swiftly will outshine moving correctly; when we will try to force God’s hand of provision and promise by moving outside of his design. We begin to think we know more and see more than we really do, rather than trusting in the omniscience of the One who rescues and leads us.
Joshua only had the Torah (first five books of our Bible). We have the life-giving instruction of all the Scriptures and the indwelling of the God’s own Spirit. Strength and courage is found in partaking of the Word of God—in it we discover his character, our purpose, and God’s faithfulness in the midst of our humanness.
The most frightening aspect of all of this is that in exposing ourselves to Scripture and the Spirit of God, we expose our hearts to his holiness. We see where we have deviated from God’s design for us; we begin to see the parts of our lives that are dark and in need of his light and redemption; we find our nastiness overwhelmed by his beauty. It’s frightening because in these moments, we are confronted with the awesome, powerful righteousness of God and know what it is to feel ‘undone’ in the presence of the King. But in those moments, we remember that even his correction is an act of love designed for his glory and honor—and the God who promised to not forsake or abandon us will keep that promise though we have not earned nor do we deserve it.
Joshua was told his success would come through following God’s instructions.
Should we expect anything different in our own lives?